Chef AJ Lost Over 100 Pounds on a Plant-Based Diet – The Beet

“You can’t have excuses and results at the same time.”

This is the lesson we learn while listening to “Ultimate Weightloss Secrets with Chef AJ and Rich Roll on his podcast, The Rich Roll Podcast. Chef AJ is a popular vegan chef and author and now offers up a weight loss program that people swear by, called The Ultimate Weightloss Program. She is a self-described former food addict who turned her life around in her 20s by following the advice of Dr. John McDougall. The doctor got her off of nuts and oil and shifted her diet toward complex carbs that are whole food plant-based minimally processed meals.

On the podcast which was taped in 2018, Chef AJ and Roll discuss the difficulties of food addiction and the keys to losing weight on a plant-based diet. “I was morbidly obese at 11 years old, 5’6 and weighed 160 lbs,” says Chef AJ. “I suffered from refined food addictions and weighed 200 lbs in my 20’s, but I was vegan.” After going vegan in college, AJ ate mostly sweets, refined carbs such as flour and processed food, and developed a food addiction that almost took her life. She spoke openly about her thoughts of suicide.

Now a vegan for 40 years, AJ shared her success story and helpful “secrets” with Rich Roll on how to eat your way to a better body, mind, and life. See her dramatic transformation here.

Here, her four most important lessons to keep in mind if you are trying to lose weight on a plant-based diet. For more of her success secrets, she encourages people to join her community and sign up for her diet plan.

Lesson 1. Potatoes make you thin, stay away from nuts.

Yes, you read that right. But to be clear, when AJ talks positively about the benefit of potatoes as a carbohydrate, she does not mean other carbs such as pasta, alcohol, sugars, or anything processed such as bread. She means whole grains in their whole form, cooked in water, such as beans, squash, roots vegetables like carrots, and yes potatoes. Why does she include them on a weight loss plan? “Potatoes are one of the most satisfying foods in the world,” says Chef AJ, “and more nutrient-dense then people realize.”

Chef AJ’s dramatic weight loss resulted from her ditching oily foods such as nuts, and instead, eating starches such as potatoes. Doctor John McDougall, an advocate of low-fat, high starch diet, and well-known diet book author of The Starch Solution gave that exact advice to Chef AJ early on. Dr. McDougall explains, “The fat you eat is the fat you wear.” Stay away from nuts, period, that diet recommends. Chef AJ committed to this approach and noticed results within a week. During the discussion,  Rich Roll immediately pointed out that this is in juxtaposition with the “Low carb, no-carb, ketosis diets.” So what worked for Chef AJ and what Dr. McDougall swears by is the opposite of what the keto followers believe in.

“I was losing a pound a week by not eating nuts and eating more complex carbs, and food with fewer calories,” Chef AJ notes. Rich Roll added that the reason why people become addicted to carbs is not simply that they taste so good, but the fact that there are added ingredients that make them fatty like butter, oil, and cheese.

AJ’s advice to anyone who needs a new approach or wants to try to emulate her weight loss and for whom keto is not the answer is to stay away from fatty snacks like nuts and choose something like sweet potato instead.

Bottom line: Fats enhance your cravings, so the more fat you eat, the more junk you’re likely to eat. Instead, choose more complex carbs in their whole plant-based form since they are high in fiber and nutrient-dense, which will help your body burn fat faster.

Lesson 2. Go for two weeks with no oil, and you won’t miss it anymore.

Chef AJ, who we should mention is a pastry chef and was the pastry restaurant at Santé on LaBrea in Los Angeles, and is famous for her gluten-free, oil-free, salt-free, sugar-free desserts, says ditch the oil for two weeks and you won’t miss it after that.

Her advice: Oils will pack on the pounds on quickly. Salad with mixed veggies for lunch are healthy, but AJ believes that where you go wrong is mixing it with an oil-based dressing. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of oil has120 calories. An average dressing serving is about four tablespoons and can deliver a whopping 400 calories.

Chef AJ told Rich Roll: “If I were to make you a meal of gluten-free pasta with vegetables and oil-free marinara, you could have a very nice big serving of food for about 500 calories.” On the other hand, she adds, “If you eat that same meal at a restaurant, it would be about 500 calories from the oil in just the sauce.”

Chef AJ has not cooked with oil or used, any oil products since 2008, she says. When she made the switchover she also jettisoned the oil when meal prepping for her husband and learned to  make food so delicious that he never knew the difference.  Within one week of removing the oil from his food, he took off weight. He had no idea why the scale was telling him he was lighter, she laughed.

Bottom Line: Consuming oils or oil-based foods leads to caloric intake that is exponentially higher than you intend it to be, because you may be inclined into believing that you’re eating healthy. How many times have you thought: “These are vegetables, and they are healthy, so  I can have seconds or thirds.” The Beet recommends that you try sauteeing your vegetables in vegetable broth for added flavor, or better yet eating them lightly steamed with some lemon juice. Roasting in the oven is another option with some salt and spices.

3. Eating in moderation never works when you’re a food addict.

If you’re addicted to something you have to get rid of it, ASAP. Chef AJ stresses that moderation never works for food addicts. It’s better to go cold “tofurkey” (her joke) than slowly giving up something like junk food. If you’re a food addict you can’t think of excuses in your head. You have to just go for it and be healthy.

Chef AJ points to the Saints in backing up her philosophy: “There was a Saint named Saint Augustine who said that complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” This is one of the hardest concepts for people to understand. “It’s scary, it’s going to be difficult, and that’s where the healing lies,” says AJ.

She goes on to explain how many plant-based doctors will say it’s ok to eat a “little” of the foods we enjoy, like a little salt, a little flour, or add a little sugar, but that’s not going to work for a person who needs to lose weight and is a food addict.

“Simple food is simply healthy,” added Rich Roll who told listeners that he loves to eat simple rice and beans over greens with salsa four times a week.

Bottom Line: Stick to your commitments and understand that adding a little bit of what you’re trying to avoid will derail your best efforts. “The joy you feel from eating healthy and limiting your calorie intake is sustainable.”

The Beet would add: It’s easier to move on from a breakup all at once, instead of slowly saying your goodbyes. Break up with sugar and fat.

4. “You can’t have excuses and results at the same.”

“It’s never going to be as cheap or easy as going through a drive-through,” AJ said. “But the simpler you eat the easier it is.”

As for excuses she has heard them all. One of Chef AJ’s first weight loss clients struggled to go plant-based because she couldn’t give up cheese. She didn’t want to go to France and not eat Parisian cheese. Though she had no plans to go to France she imagined how a plant-based diet might affect her travel plans that were non-existent.

It’s helpful to make your commitments public and find compassion in doing so. It’s the compassion for your own life, loved ones, and animals, that made Chef AJ the success she is today.

Rich Roll adds: You have to know who you are, and that’s why one day at a time is so powerful. He acknowledged that the phrase might be cliche, but also true. Most people plan for months ahead when they start a diet but the most important day is the day you’re in. Roll explains that it’s healthier for people to have excuses such as, “I will eat the cupcake tomorrow,” to restrain yourself from giving in, in the moment. Chances are that when tomorrow comes, you might not have the same cravings.

Bottom Line: It’s easier to have excuses, but they’re not going to help you as much as resolve. A familiar excuse used to be the love of cheese but now there are so many good plant-based cheeses find the dairy-free alternative and stock up.

Last Thought: Chef AJ and Rich Roll are convinced that the joy you feel from eating healthy and limiting your calorie intake is sustainable. Living a healthy lifestyle is the one thing that is sustainable. Listen to the full podcast here.